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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Alarming rise in teenage pregnancies noted

By Marlon Ramos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 09:07:00 02/27/2008

MANILA, Philippines
-- While most girls their age are worrying about the gowns they will wear to their junior-senior prom, Marie and Leilanie, both 16, have more pressing things to take care of.

Leilanie, not her real name, is eight months pregnant and is searching for a way to get her 19-year-old live-in partner out of prison. He was arrested five months ago for stealing manhole cover in Caloocan City.

“Wala po kasi kaming pera pambili ng pagkain kaya napagtripan niya ibenta yun (We had no money to buy food so he thought of selling the cover),” the timid girl told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, parent company of

Leilanie said she wants to be with him when she gives birth to their first-born next month.

“I’m trying to be strong for our baby,” she said.

Marie, on the other hand, complained of getting little sleep at night because she has to attend to her three-month-old son and her baby sister.

Marie said she misses going to the mall with her friends and playing street games.

“But I have learned to accept the reality of where I am now,” she said in Filipino.

“Nakakapagod lang po talaga mag-alaga ng bata, maghugas ng pinggan at maglinis ng bahay (But it’s really tiring to take care of a baby, wash the dishes and clean the house),” she adds, smiling.

Teenage pregnancy

According to the Forum for Family Planning and Development Inc. (FFPDI), Marie and Leilani are just two of millions of teenage mothers in the Philippines.

The group said the steady increase in the incidence of teen pregnancies in the country in the past few years has reached an “alarming stage.”

“The problem lies in the government’s sincerity in addressing issues about population growth and reproductive health,” Benjamin de Leon, FFPDI president, said in a news briefing in Quezon City on Tuesday.

1.7 million babies

De Leon said the latest data from the National Statistics Office showed that of 1.7 million babies born in 2004, almost 8 percent were born to mothers aged 15-19.

Almost 30 percent of Filipino women become mothers before reaching their 21st birthday, he said.

In 2000 alone, young mothers gave birth to 818,000 babies, he said.

“This means that almost one of every 10 babies is born to teenage mothers,” he said.

He said this number could be bigger as births after March 5, 2005, were not recorded.

“We need to help these children for they are the next generation of parents, workers and leaders. In order for them to fulfill these roles… we must improve their access to education and information about sexuality and reproduction,” De Leon said in a separate statement.

Kiko dela Tonga, of Likhaan Foundation, said a recent study done by the Population Institute of the University of the Philippines showed that more than four million Filipinos aged 15-19 had already had sexual intercourse.

He said more than half of these are from poor families who do not have knowledge about contraceptives and reproductive health.

He said two of every five teenage pregnancies are unwanted ones; more than 46 percent of young pregnant women resort to induced abortion.

One of every four teenage mothers, Dela Tonga said, quit school to focus on child rearing or to find a job to help their families.


Medical studies likewise showed that 10 percent of babies born to young mothers are malnourished.

One of every five babies of teenage mothers dies of various causes, Dela Tonga said.

“These happen simply because young mothers are not ready emotionally, mentally and physically to rear a child of their own,” said Dr. Gloria Itchon of the Family Planning Organization of the Philippines (FPOP).

Dela Tonga said although premarital sex has become prevalent among the youth, Filipino families have maintained its conservative view about sexuality and do not discuss the topic with their teenage children.

He said it’s very unlikely for typical parents to talk about issues regarding sex with their children.

“Although our society has become more liberated, it’s almost taboo for a family to talk openly about sex. But teenage pregnancy and premarital sex are the realities that the Filipino youth are facing,” he said.

De Leon lamented that the leaders of the Catholic Church are still opposed to the use of condoms and other contraceptives in their programs for reproductive health.

“We tried to present them the cases of (Marie and Leilanie). But they are just close-minded about the issue of artificial birth control methods,” he said.

We’re NOT telling the youth to engage in premarital sex. What we’re saying is that should they fail to control themselves, there are available ways to protect themselves.”

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

UN kicks off campaign to end violence against women

Agence France-Presse
First Posted 08:28:00 02/26/2008

UNITED NATIONS -- UN boss Ban Ki-moon on Monday launched a worldwide campaign to end violence against women which he described as "never acceptable, never excusable, never tolerable."

"Violence against women is an issue that cannot wait," the secretary general told the UN commission on the status of women.

"At least one out of every three women is likely to be beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime ... No country, no culture, no woman young or old is immune to this scourge."

He noted that through the practice of prenatal sex selection, "countless others are denied the right even to exist."

And he noted that "today's weapons of armed conflict include rape, sexual violence and the abduction of children conscripted as soldiers or forced into sexual slavery."

"Violence against women is never acceptable, never excusable, never tolerable," he stated.

Ban said the campaign would continue until 2015 to coincide with the target date for implementation of the poverty-reduction Millennium Development Goals.

He called on the UN Security Council to set up a mechanism to monitor violence against women and girls under the framework of its Resolution 1325.

That resolution, adopted in October 2000, urges UN member-states to protect women, improve their status and their participation in decision-making bodies.

Ban also appealed to men around the world "to lead by example: to make clear that violence against women is an act perpetrated by a coward, and that speaking up against it is a badge of honor."

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Valentine's Day Irony

Talk about Irony. People usually wear RED on Valentine's Day, indeed, the city is ALL RED ...

Read on...

Security forces on alert ahead of anti-gov’t protests

Associated Press
First Posted 11:05:00 02/14/2008

MANILA, Philippines -- Philippines security forces were on high alert Thursday amid concerns that communist rebels planned to infiltrate protests to demand the resignation of President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo over mounting corruption allegations.

Captain Carlo Ferrer, military spokesman, said intelligence reports indicated the communists planned to disrupt an opposition-led rally Friday "to create confusion and chaos." The rebels vowed Wednesday to intensify attacks to weaken the government, but they have largely refrained from assaults that could hurt civilians during their four-decade insurgency.

Opposition leaders dismissed the military's announcement as a ploy to discourage crowds from joining the protest in Makati, Manila's financial district.

Political tensions have increased since the dramatic emergence last week of corruption witness, former government consultant Rodolfo Lozada Jr., who linked a former elections chief and Arroyo's husband to an allegedly overpriced $329 million government broadband contract in a Senate testimony. Both men have denied the allegations.

Arroyo has survived three opposition impeachment bids and four attempted power grabs, mainly due to the support of loyal generals and a formidable political coalition during her seven tumultuous years in power.

She has been accused of rigging the 2004 election and was later implicated by opposition politicians in a series of corruption scandals, along with members of her family. Arroyo has rejected the allegations and vowed to finish her term until 2010.

The government is afraid that the upcoming protests could snowball into a nonviolent "people power" revolt, similar to the uprisings that toppled dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986 and Joseph Estrada in 2001 over allegations of massive corruption and misrule.

Arroyo, who helped lead the 2001 protests, succeeded Estrada and won a six-year mandate in 2004.

National police chief Avelino Razon Jr. said authorities were trying to verify the alleged communist plot to hijack the opposition rallies.

Police will guard against violence and ban protests at a popular pro-democracy shrine and near the presidential palace in Manila, Razon told The Associated Press. Security personnel were erecting checkpoints in key points across the capital.

Left-wing activists and a prestigious group of business executives, the Makati Business Club, were backing the planned Friday protest. Groups linked to the influential Roman Catholic Church, which hailed the anti-corruption expose in the Senate, planned a separate prayer rally to be led by former president and pro-democracy icon Corazon Aquino over the weekend.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Church protest fails, QC passes sex ed law

A Church-led protest outside their session hall failed to deter Quezon City councilors from approving a proposed ordinance to teach reproductive health lessons in all of the city's public high schools.

ABS-CBN News correspondent Apples Jalandoni reported that priests, nuns and other members of Catholic religious organizations picketed outside the session hall as the council voted on the proposal.

The protests was aimed at stopping the approval of the city ordinance that according to the ralliers, "violates the beliefs of the Church."

The ordinance states that all public high schools in Quezon City will teach sex education to its students, including the use of contraceptives.

The ordinance also recommended the use of artificial family planning methods.

"[It's] not good to teach adolescents about sex... it will perpetuate sex early... results may be abortion...," said Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco.

After the rally, the bishop and the protesters gained entry to the session hall. They, however, found out that the council already passed the ordinance.

The councilors, meanwhile, defended the ordinance.

"It's time for family planning, because this is really a poverty issue," said Councilor Joseph Juico.

The council also said that five out of every 100 children in Quezon City are underweight and one of the reasons is successive births.

The protesters, meanwhile, said they will not be deterred. They said they will elevate their case to the Supreme Court.

Family planning cleared for class

Manila Standard Today
February 6, 2008
Joel M. Sy Egco
The Quezon City council has unanimously passed on Monday an ordinance allowing public schools to teach the basics of family planning amid the growing number of cases of premarital and unwanted pregnancies.

Majority leader Ariel Inton, in an interview with Standard Today, however, chose to drop the measure’s notorious tag because the approved version was far from the original proposal of Councilor Joseph Juico.

“I refuse to call it as an ordinance on sex education because we have almost completely revised what was originally filed. I can say we have changed the Juico proposal by as much as 90 percent,” Inton said.

“The final measure can be applied only to high school students and above.”

Inton was optimistic the ordinance would be acceptable to the religious sector which was against his colleague’s original proposal of exposing elementary pupils to the subject of human reproduction.

In a circular, Cubao Bishop Honesto Ong-tioco said Juico’s ordinance was “cleverly crafted” to appear as a reproductive health and population management law but actually pushed for the use of abortifacients, branding them as “safe” methods.

“As your shepherd, I admonish you to defend the sanctity of human life and the family that are now in tremendous danger,” Ongtioco said.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Day II: Senate Hearing with Jun Lozada, et. al

The PNP's testimony at the Senate hearing today was nothing short of a cover-up to what they really did and what they were "instructed" to do. Their demeanor tells it all. They were stammering, they can't look at the senators' straight up, they cannot answer the questions directly. And obviously, their lies are catching up with them. At this point it bears stressing that Lozada stand to gain NOTHING from this ordeal. As he said, "hindi ko naman po ito laban eh. Kaya nga ayaw kong mapunta dito....".

On the other hand, the Senators, who are pro-administration, are undeniably bent on destroying his credibility, but to NO AVAIL. They all looked desperate and to me, were outright defeated by Lozada's honesty and candor. In fact, Sen. Joker Arroyo's tactic on discussing good faith and bad faith blew up on his face when Lozada bravely informed the body that he also talked to the Senator's wife, a comment he said in response to Sen. Arroyo's innuendoes that he only talks to one side of the fence - those opposed to the government. Sen. Enrile's railroad kind of questioning also failed to scare and stump Lozada. And Sen. Santiago's comment before the media that she sees no value in this hearings as they are simply geared towards the 2010 elections is just so irritating and disgusting. WE WANT TO KNOW THE TRUTH Mirriam, at least most of us Filipinos still care for this country. No matter how much you downplay the whole thing, this whole testimony is vital to the FILIPINO People and would spell the fate of this country in the coming days.

Jun Lozada: it's worth taking a risk for this country

An excerpt from Jun Lozada's press statement:

"Ang dasal ko lang sana maintindihan nyo yung dusang dinananas ng pamilya ko ngayon. Ang dasal ko lang sana matutunan na natin after nito na ang salitang Pilpino ay hindi lang tumutkoy sa isang pamilya. Ang salitang Pilipino ay tumutukoy sa isang bansa, ang bansang Pilipino. And sometimes, it's worth taking a risk for this country."

Profile in courage

By Conrado de Quiros
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:47:00 02/11/2008

MANILA, Philippines - Panfilo Lacson prefaced the questions he put to Jun Lozada last Friday by expressing the deepest appreciation for what he had done. Normally, Lacson said, which is to say in a democracy, it’s the government that is afraid of the people and not the people of their government. Abnormally, which is to say in our times, it’s the people who are afraid of their government and not the government of its people.

For that reason, Lacson said, he had the greatest admiration for what Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada had done. May his act of self-sacrifice, he said, serve as an inspiration to his fellow citizens.

I couldn’t agree more. I saw Lozada Thursday night on TV, and the face of a more scared man you could not hope to see. That did not make him less admirable, it made him the more so. He had just gone through a terrifying ordeal, which was being picked up at the airport by armed men in civilian clothes who tried to make him sign a document disowning the things he proposed to reveal, which was why he had come home to his country at great risk to his life. He did fear for his life, and he did fear for his wife and children. At the mention of which he choked on his words and turned away, eyes shut tight in an expression of indescribable pain. But he had decided anyway to risk all to salvage what he could of his honor and to give back to a country that was in the throes of indescribable pain.

“It’s just drama,” Raul Gonzalez would sneer. Well, one day God or the people, whoever comes first or more swiftly, will give him to understand the meaning of the word.

I myself remembered a fundamental truth about courage. Which is that courage is not the absence of fear. It is the presence of fear, often a most crippling one, but a fear that is overcome by a heroic act of will, or by the recognition that one has no choice but to do what is right. That is what Rodolfo Lozada has done.

You looked at him last Thursday and Friday and you had to ask yourself how you would act in his place. Would you be just as willing to come out and tell the world what you knew about a humongous scam, perpetrated by people whose power, individually and collectively, and capacity for murder, metaphorically and literally, are amply in evidence? And when the life and wellbeing not just of yourself but of your children hung in the balance? That is not an easy thing to answer honestly, particularly given a country whose people seem to have lost the capacity to appreciate gestures like that. I personally do not know what I would do.

Lozada’s act of heroism becomes even more striking when compared with what his immediate superior, Romulo Neri, did some months back. There you have to stand agape at the irony of words, for Neri is superior to Lozada only in the same way that Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is superior to Mother Teresa—in that the former have awesome power while the latter do not. Or at least seemingly so, for in the scheme of things the second would prove to have all the power in the world while the first would prove sublimely impotent. You looked at Neri, and in light of Lozada’s resplendent act, you told yourself: What a wimp.

It was the fear that Lozada had to master that made him far more believable than all the horses and all the queen’s men (and women) put together. You had to ask yourself why any man would put the lives of his loved ones on the line for a reason other than the compelling one.

Miriam Defensor-Santiago would suggest that reason was crookedness. She it was who pointed out triumphantly how Lozada paid for his personal insurance with taxpayers’ money. Which reminded me yet again of Raul Roco making Miriam look bad after her interpolation of a witness during the Erap impeachment trial, which drove her ballistic and drove her to drive away three prominent members of the gallery. Lozada did not need anyone to do that for him, he himself made Miriam look bad.

He readily admitted that in his life he had done things he wasn’t proud of, and this was one of them. For which he was trying to make amends by doing what he was doing right now. Whatever was left of his soul, he wanted to keep intact. It was the most complete refutation of Miriam for it turned the question back on her: Do you still have anything of your soul left to salvage?

Gregorio Honasan would ask Lozada rhetorically whether what he was doing was an act of heroism or an act of survival. Lozada’s answer was even more brilliant. Yes, what he was doing was also an act of survival, but it was survival of quite another kind. It made me realize yet again that courage was first and last moral and only marginally and incidentally physical.

He came from a poor family of Chinese immigrants, Lozada said, but his father had always taught him to value pride and honor above wealth and power. He had not always lived up to his father’s words, but now he proposed to do so. Now he would do his father proud, now he would redeem himself and honor his father. Which turned the question back on the whole cabal that had been trying to wreck his credibility, Ronnie Puno, Lito Atienza, Sergio Apostol, Avelino Razon (whatever happened to you Sonny?): How the hell did your own parents raise you?

Lozada did say something last Thursday that stuck in my brain. He could only hope, he said, that his fellow Filipinos would not let his gesture go to waste. He himself has been weighed and found the right measure. Tinimbang ka, at tamang sukat.

How will we be found when we are weighed?

Greed, panic, lies; is justice next?

By Neal Cruz
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:43:00 02/11/2008

MANILA, Philippines - First it was the greed, then the panic, and then the lies. What will come next? It should be justice and punishment for the guilty. We hope they do come.

With the revelations of Jun Lozada, it is not difficult to piece together what happened so that the ZTE-NBN deal came to this sordid mess.

As the Arroyo administration is coming to an end, it was every greedy man for himself in providing for his future. “This is your last chance, make the most of it,” must have been the pervading sentiment among administration officials. “If you’re going to steal, steal big” must have been another among the greediest.

And so encouraged by the successes in the North Rail and South Rail projects, the Fertilizer Scam and other assorted scams, the “brokers” wanted bigger and bigger “commissions.” And they got bigger because more and more people wanted their share. Can you blame Benjamin Abalos if he wanted $130 million when $70 million of that will allegedly go to FG and smaller amounts to other officials? By the time the partitioning is over, he would probably have just enough to retire on in luxury.

“Sec, may P200 [million] ka dito” (Abalos’ alleged offer to Romulo Neri) seemed at first shockingly big, but remember that the $130 million commission was in dollars, equivalent to about P6.5 billion at the time the offer was made.

But greed knows no bounds or such a thing as too much. And to Neri and Lozada, P6.5 billion (that’s billions) in commission was too much. And so the Neri order to Lozada to “moderate their greed.” And to Lozada, it was really unconscionably too much. It would be the taxpayers who would pay for that. Half of that ($65 million) would have been acceptable to him. But Abalos allegedly would have nothing of that. It was all or nothing for him. As he told the (First?) Gentleman on the phone, “Kung ganyan kayo, kalimutan na natin ang pinag-usapan natin [If you are like that, let’s forget everything we agreed on].” But how can whoever that man was forget $70 million?

So he got on the phone and he was so powerful and persuasive that he was able to have the Chinese government agree to give a loan to pay for the huge commission (but for which the Filipino taxpayers would eventually have to pay).

But as Lozada had warned, it was too big—“bubukol po ’yan.” It was not just a pimple, but a big boil that became too obvious. And so “bumukol na nga.”

And the ZTE-NBN scandal exploded.

When Abalos resigned and the uproar quieted, they thought they had it licked but when the Senate subpoenaed Lozada and Neri, they panicked again. To prevent them from testifying, they sent Lozada to Hong Kong with antedated papers and Neri ran to the Supreme Court. But when Lozada said he wanted to come home, they panicked some more. And when you panic, you make mistakes.

And so the panic-stricken conspirators probably held a quick powwow and while undecided on what to do decided to abduct Lozada when he arrived at the airport to prevent him from falling into the hands of the Senate sergeant at arms. They took Lozada on a five-hour ride, to Laguna and back, while they decided what to do and prepared the affidavits he would be made to sign to absolve Ma’am and FG of any involvement in the scam.

Meanwhile, Lozada’s wife and family were also panicking (who wouldn’t if the man of the family went missing?) and ran to the media which made so much noise that Lozada’s abductors decided to return him to his family at La Salle Greenhills where they had sought refuge.

Enter Mike Defensor. MalacaƱang’s dependable troubleshooter asked Lozada to call a press conference to deny knowledge of the ZTE deal.

Lozada didn’t want that because he would have to tell lies. So he called on the nuns and priests for advice. Their advice: Be truthful.

They decided to hold a press conference at 2 o’clock in the morning to preempt the press conference Defensor would call later. Media obliged and ANC broadcast the whole press conference from beginning to end, and escorted Lozada until he was safely in the custody of the Senate. The dam had burst and all the sordid details that had been kept secret flowed out.

More panic, more mistakes. The administration trotted out all the big guns to discredit Lozada: Lito Atienza, Romulo Neri, Avelino Razon, Ignacio Bunye, Leandro Mendoza, Ronaldo Puno, Mike Defensor, Luis Villafuerte, Benjamin Abalos, lawyers Antonio Bautista and Salvador Panelo, Palace deputy spokesman Antonio Golez, Presidential Assistant Manuel Gaite, DOTC Assistant Secretary Lorenzo Formoso and many more.

Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Juan Ponce Enrile, unabashed GMA allies (Miriam’s husband is a presidential adviser and Enrile’s wife has just been appointed ambassador to the Vatican) tried to discredit Lozada at the Senate hearing, only to fall flat on their faces because of Lozada’s honesty. Presidential Legal Adviser Sergio Apostol insulted the whole Filipino-Chinese community with his racist slur that Lozada was just a “probinsyanong intsik” who should be deported. Yet Lozada speaks more fluent Filipino than he does. Public relations practitioners, government and private, fanned out to feed media with information to discredit Lozada’s revelations.

All of them arrayed against just one person, unknown until recently. All for nothing, because Lozada was telling the truth and they were not. When you tell lies, they eventually contradict one another. And they forgot the poem that said “Sir Galahad has the strength of ten because his heart is pure.” Yes, Lozada is another Galahad with a pure heart against whom all the forces of evil thrown by the administration are powerless. Let’s all support him.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Jun Lozada: The Truth Shall Set US Free

Jun Lozada's revelations validated all the things that we "Filipinos" have always presumed to exist. He was just brave enough to call it what it is and name it. The "dysfunctional" procurement system and the politicians' "commissions", or more bluntly, their KICKBACKS in every "project" they engaged into, in the name of our poor country.

Gen. Razon, Sec. Bunye and Sec. Atienza's press con and subsequent statements before the media to disprove Lozada's claims proved to be futile as their rationalization of the whole event sounded more like "alibis" founded on deception and bad faith.

For starters, why would they yield to the alleged request for security and protection by Lozada when a legitimate warrant for his arrest upon arrival from the airport would be served to him by the Senate's Sgt. at Arms? Why do they need to protect him and from whom? If at all, what they should have done was to bring him to the Senate and let the latter deal with him.

We all know who they were protecting and it's definitely not Jun Lozada.

The administration senators tried to discredit him by questioning his "morality" and other acts he committed during his term of office as President of PFC. Well, that sounds glaringly "desperate" to me. He's not doing it to be a hero, in fact, it was very human of him to admit that he did not want to attend the Senate hearing and declare all he knew about the questioned contract. He wanted to be spared from it all and do nothing. After all, those information make or break governments. And he wanted no part of that. Had there been ways and steps to legally prevent him from testifying therein, he would have taken them. However, there was none. Fate brought him there and in the end, he chose to tell the truth.

He's no saint, as he openly admitted to some allegations which Sen. Santiago hurled at him. But that to me is irrelevant. Besides, as Martin Luther King said: "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy". What Jun Lozada did showed the strength of his character and conviction. His once peaceful life will perhaps be disrupted forever because of this controversies, but as he said: This country is worth taking a risk for.

The main issue here is the ZTE-NBN deal, so why not question him about that? What Sec. Santiago and the other pro-administration senators were doing was blatantly clear - they were out there trying so hard to cast doubt to this man's credibilty just to to save this government instead of doing their duty to serve this country and its people. It's disgusting!

Nonetheless, kudos to the media for their important and crucial role in everyhing that transpired. It was their vigilance and diligence in doing their job that helped Lozada get rid of his "kidnappers" and come out into the open. Indeed, the TRUTH shall set US ALL FREE.

As Winston Churchill said:

"Truth is incontrovertible. Panic may resent it; ignorance may deride it; malice may distort it; but there IT is."

Friday, February 08, 2008

UN Population Fund monitors E. Samar Program

Manila Bulletin
Jack C. Gadaingan
07 February 2008

BORONGAN, Eastern Samar – An official of the United Nations Population Fund Assistance (UNPFA) personally visited this Pacific Coast province, three towns of which are recipient of its 6th Country Program.

Suneeta Mukherjee, UNPFA representative to the Philippines, was in town this week to meet with Gov. Ben Evardone and the mayors here and monitor how much progress they have made so far on the implementation of the program.

Mukherjee is also scheduled to deliver the keynote speech at the gathering of the Local Legislators League of Eastern Samar today where pressing issues on population, health, and environment development are to be discussed.

Currently, the towns of Sulat, Maydolong and Llorente are pilot areas of the UNPFA 6th Country Program Action Plan. This five-year program was started in year 2005 and is scheduled for completion in 2009.

Only 10 provinces nationwide are beneficiaries of this program. In the Visayas, only Bohol and Eastern Samar provinces are included. This year, the contraceptive reliance portion of the program, which is a counterparting scheme of contraceptive procurement between the beneficiary local government unit (LGU) and the UNPFA at 30 and 70 percent respectively, will be expanded to cover an additional nine towns in the province.

This expansion, which is expected to cover more than 100 towns in the country, will be implemented in partnership with the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP). This UNPFA-funded 6th Country Program Action Plan generally provides education to parents in the countryside on the utilization of the Natural Family Planning method as well the Modern Family Planning method. It allows parents to make an informed choice what method to adopt.

The program has three major components: reproductive health, population and development strategies, and gender and development.

Reproductive health covers five strategic areas: family planning, addressing violence against women and children, maternal and child health care, men’s involvement in reproductive health, and prevention and control of sexually transmitted infection (STI) and HIV.

The UNPFA recognizes the interconnectedness of slower population growth, poverty reduction, economic progress, environmental protection, women’s rights and sustainable development.

In the Philippines, as cited in a conference in Cairo, Egypt, socio-economic development would be impossible unless its rapid population growth is squarely addressed. Studies bared that four babies are born in the country every minute, 5,000 a day, or almost two million a year.

Reproductive Health and Cancer

A.G. Romualdez Jr., M.D.
07 February 2007

In men, the only cancer of reproductive health significance is cancer of the prostate. The prostate is a gland the size of a small guava ("bubut") surrounding the urethra immediately after it exits the urinary bladder. Its function is to contribute secretions that contain nutrients for sperm cells as they are ejaculated to the outside. For men who are no longer sexually active, the prostate is a non-functional gland much like the appendix.

Unfortunately, the prostate is also the site of one of the most common cancers of males over the age of 40. In 2006, in the United States there were almost 220,000 new cases of prostate cancer with an estimated 27,000 deaths. During the last decade, the numbers of new cases detected have risen sharply with the introduction of a new blood test that detects a substance known as "prostate specific antigen" or PSA in the blood of men with prostate cancer.

For the majority of Filipino males, at about two thousand pesos, the test is largely unaffordable. Further, the economics, epidemiology and usual course of the disease makes publicly funded mass screening for PSA unsound from a cost-benefit standpoint.
For one thing, an elevated PSA is non-specific since other conditions such as urinary tract infection can cause such increases. Thus by itself, it does not establish a diagnosis and it must be followed by ultrasound guided needle biopsy and histological examination, a procedure that is even more expensive.

When the diagnosis is established, treatment options vary depending on the patient’s age. For men over the age of 65 with no other sign of prostate disease, the preferred option is "watchful waiting" – i.e., no intervention while monitoring PSA levels and other signs of prostate dysfunction. For younger men, the two main options are radical surgery or the less invasive radiotherapy modalities.
The good news is that prostate cancer generally runs a long and indolent course. This means that very often other pre-existing conditions of the elderly are the most likely causes of death in men who are over the age of 70.
Unfortunately for women, there are several cancers of reproductive health significance that are associated with the female reproductive system. The most common of these is breast cancer. The most important public health intervention for cancer of the breast is early detection and treatment. In all developed countries, mass screening by means of an x-ray procedure known as mammography is the standard method of early detection.

Unfortunately, poor countries like the Philippines have not made this screening available to the majority of their populations. The fact is that the low technology intervention of choice is a good program for breast self-examination. However, public health service providers must be truly committed to this education-intensive method of early detection for it to be truly beneficial to communities.

Cancer of the uterus, particularly that of the cervix (the outermost, exposed part of the uterus), is the second most common cancer in women especially in lower socio-economic groups. Early detection and treatment is also the most effective public health intervention. The old reliable Pap smear was deemed too expensive for poor countries, but with the advent of the acetic acid smear which serves as a first screen, it may be possible for public health providers to mount a major program of early detection.

In addition, there is now a new vaccine to prevent cancer of the cervix. Immunization against the human papilloma virus (HPV) is known to effectively protect against this cancer. There are two major barriers to implementing an HPV immunization program. The first is cost – which can be overcome with coordinated efforts between public health providers and the suppliers of the vaccines. The second barrier is much more difficult to overcome – puritanical religious zealots view programs to immunize young girls at puberty as inducements to sexual promiscuity.

The other common cancer of the reproductive tract is ovarian cancer. There is no accepted intervention designed for early detection and treatment of this cancer. Thus these are usually diagnosed during annual physical examinations (which should include a good pelvic examination) or when there are symptoms of pain or a mass.
While there is no specific public health intervention for early detection, there has recently been reported a possible preventive measure. Researchers at Oxford University in the United Kingdom have reported a study involving thousands of British women indicating that ovarian cancer could be prevented by the use of the new low progesterone birth control pills. In contrast to the anecdotal evidence usually cited by anti-birth control extremists who claim that pills may be harmful, the evidence of protection against ovarian cancer is solid enough for the editor of The Lancet to advocate the promotion of their use specifically to prevent ovarian cancer.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

To whom do we turn?

By Rina Jimenez-David
First Posted 00:33:00 02/01/2008

MANILA, Philippines -- Gearing up for Women’s Month in March, a delegation of women, representing women’s groups, urban poor organizations, and an association of home-based workers visited the Senate Wednesday to lobby for the passage of the Magna Carta of Women.

The Magna Carta is an “omnibus law” that seeks to enshrine in our statutes equality between men and women, and to put in place measures to ensure the protection of women from violence and other forms of oppression, as well as to advance the welfare of marginalized women and those in “specially difficult circumstances,” such as survivors of disasters and violence.

In the House of Representatives, public hearings are about to start on a substitute bill on the Magna Carta crafted by the committee on women and gender equality, headed by Rep. Nanette Castelo-Daza of Quezon City. In the Senate, though, the committee on women, headed by Sen. Jamby Madrigal, has yet to call a meeting on the bills filed by six senators, including Senate President Manuel Villar. This is the reason women deemed it timely to pay a visit to the senators and urge them to speed up passage of the Magna Carta.

In fairness to Madrigal, she ordered staff members to meet with some of the delegation to discuss the provisions of the bill and possible resource persons to be invited during the hearings. She explained that she was waiting for the latest version of the proposed Magna Carta, stressing that she wanted a bill that was “strong” on provisions for marginalized women, especially from indigenous communities.

Other senators the delegation spoke to also expressed support for the Magna Carta, and it is our earnest hope that they would be willing to cross not just party lines but even personal interest to finally deliver a law guaranteeing women’s basic rights and ensuring full equality—not just in law but in actuality.
Here’s a case right in step with the Magna Carta.

* * *
What is the obligation of government when it comes to ensuring the health of citizens? If government service is all about delivering basic public services to the people, then certainly good health must be considered part of this menu of basic services. And if we consider family planning part of basic health, then is not a local government obligated to provide family planning and other reproductive health services to its citizenry?

These are the questions that 20 residents of depressed areas in Manila want answered, after they filed a suit with the Court of Appeals asking for the nullification of Executive Order 003, implemented during the nine-year Manila administration of then-mayor Lito Atienza, which “discouraged,” but in effect banned, “the use of artificial methods of contraception, like condoms, pills, intrauterine devices, surgical sterilization and others.”
The suit, filed in behalf of the residents by lawyers Harry Roque and Elizabeth Pangalangan, alleges that EO 003 prejudiced the “right to health and well-being” of poor couples.

A study on the impact of the policy on women, families, and even the medical community, conducted in part by Likhaan, a grassroots-based reproductive health advocacy group, detailed how the pull-out of family planning supplies and services from Manila health centers and hospitals resulted in more unwanted pregnancies and births, and more abortions. Indeed, birth rates in Manila rose steadily during the term of Atienza, in contrast to the decline in birth rates in Quezon City, a study has found. Unfortunately, the maternal mortality rate, or the number of deaths of women due to pregnancy and child birth, likewise rose in Manila during the same period, again in contrast to the decline in maternal mortality in Quezon City.
* * *

The suit may seem unnecessary because Atienza is no longer Manila mayor, and his son, who would have presumably continued to uphold the policy, lost in his electoral bid.

Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim was initially supportive of both the study and the suit. But as the lawyers, Likhaan and the couples who filed the suit put it, a definitive ruling from the courts is still necessary if only to send a message to other local government units and executives.

And what message would that be? Well, for one, that imposing a single method (natural family planning in Manila’s case) of family planning on couples not only violates their rights, but also threatens their health and the health of their children. If we believe that parents know best, then it should be up to each couple to decide how best they should manage their fertility and how large -- or small -- a family they want to have. Forcing women to get pregnant simply because they are too poor to buy their own contraceptives is forcing them to put their health at risk, especially if they are already too old or too sick for a healthy pregnancy. And then, when there are more children than the parents can feed or take care of, we can expect all the surviving children not only to be malnourished and sickly, but also at risk of dying.
* * *

Under the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration’s seemingly “hands-off” policy on population management, each local government unit is left to enact policies and allocate funds for family planning and other reproductive health needs. If the local executive is enlightened and genuinely concerned about the over-all health of his or her constituency then the people are assured at least of this basic service. But what if the local executive is either under the thumb of religious authority or indifferent to his people’s health status? What if the town is too poor and cannot afford to subsidize contraceptive supply?

When the national government chooses to wash its hands of responsibility on this crucial matter, to whom will mothers turn?

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Lawyer to bring jailed broadcaster’s case to UN

By Germelina Lacorte
Mindanao Bureau
First Posted 17:55:00 02/03/2008

DAVAO CITY -- The lawyer of jailed Davao broadcaster Alexander "Lex" Adonis plans to bring his case to the United Nations and urge the world body to declare the conviction for libel a violation of human rights.

Lawyer Harry Roque, who is now handling the case of the broadcaster jailed for libel, said on Sunday he was keen on elevating Adonis' case to the UN, after existing laws in the Philippines failed to protect the rights of the convicted newsman.

"Congress' promise to pass a law to decriminalize libel is not moving," Roque noted. "So, we plan to take our case to the UN Human Rights Committee and eventually have the libel laws of the country declared a violation of the International Covenant on Civil-Political Rights (ICCPR)."

Roque said that upon the issuance by the UN of such a declaration, lawyers could ask the Supreme Court to rule outright that jail terms for libel would violate the country's treaty obligations.

He said he was planning to bring all cases of journalists jailed for libel to the UN.
Roque said the new Supreme Court guidelines calling on all judges to impose fines rather than mete out jail terms to newsmen convicted for libel was a "laudable move" but it "won't benefit those already in jail."

Adonis, 43, was sentenced by a Davao court to four and a half years in jail for libel. He remains in detention.

The libel case stemmed from a series of radio commentaries dubbed "Burlesque King," in which, according to court records, Adonis identified Davao City Rep. Prospero Nograles as the man seen running naked in a Manila hotel after the husband of his alleged paramour caught them in a hotel room. Nograles is challenging the leadership of Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. in the House of Representatives.

A second libel complaint filed by Nograles' alleged paramour disqualified the newsman from applying for probation.

"In Adonis' case, he was charged a second time precisely to keep him in jail," Roque said.

Ban on condom ads counter-productive, UN agency warns

Manila Standard Today
04 February 2008

ORGANIZATIONS supporting family planning programs and policies have questioned and denounced a proposal to ban advertisements on condoms.

The Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation (PLCPD) and United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in the Philippines criticized the AIDS-FREE Philippines, Human Life International and Family Media Advocacy Foundation for their proposal banning ads on condom.

Which is really offensive, promoting responsible decisions or withholding the right to informed choice of the people?” Ramon San Pascual, PLCPD executive director, asked.

The organizations proposing the condom ads ban described the condom advertisements as “offensive to public morals” and that it promotes a “condom-lifestyle” among Filipinos.

“These condom ads do not suggest that people engage in sex but merely inform people that condom use is one method to plan families, avoid teenage pregnancies and prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS,” San Pascual said.
He added that “what is more offensive is if we continue to ignore these realities and withhold information that may possibly save the lives of individuals, mothers and even the young people.”

by: Michael Caber